Ever felt that forums just didn’t do it for you? That IM didn’t have the permanence? Problem solved! Aussie startup Tangler, which has recently gone into public beta is, in the words of its CEO, Martin Wells:
…[blurring] the lines between what you might think of as traditional instant messaging, chat, mailing lists and forums. We’re web-based and topically structured like a forum, but interaction is real-time, like instant messaging.
And that’s pretty much how Tangler works. Like traditional forums, there are subjects – what Tangler calls Groups, each containing one to many Topics. In addition there are also significant social networking features. Users can have Contacts and keep track of the conversations their friends are engaged in. As a Tangler user, you can join any public Group, and you can also create your own Groups, either public or closed, invitation-only Groups.
Wells suggested to me only half-seriously that Tangler is “Discussion 2.0.” Tangler does offer more than both traditional forums and instant messaging. Its value is in the ability to host long-term, searchable discussion on a topic, yet conduct it in real time.
You enter Tangler in the Home screen. Here, you’ll see your most recent Group invitations from your Contacts, along with recent activity in topics you’ve been involved in. You’ll also see a selection of your Groups and Contacts. There’s also a menu with options to go through to a rich search based on Groups, a full list of your Groups, your Contacts and Recent Activity.
When you’re in a Group, you can choose to work either in Chat or Post mode. Chat mode is real time, just like IM. Post mode is more like traditional forums. The editor has a number of rich tools, including the ability to embed video.
Tangler’s not yet feature complete. Wells said RSS, an open API, and tagging are in the works along with support for embedding real-time discussion inside other web sites.
Tangler also has a desktop tool, the Notifier, available on Windows, OS X and Linux. You can use it when you’re busy with other stuff to keep up with what’s happening with your Tangler Groups and Contacts.
Tangler has managed to attract a number of Web 2.0 startups into the fold to use it as their place to host user-facing discussion. Startups like OmniDrive, Ma.gnolia, Skitch, Jajah and Mum-focused social network mumspace.net amongst a host of others are all hosting beta tester discussions on Tangler, often in real time and with company staff taking a significant role.